Night of high drama in Lords raises hopes no-deal Brexit can be stopped

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A law designed to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU next month cleared another hurdle after the government announced a late-night breakthrough in the Lords.

The legislation to delay Brexit in order to prevent a no-deal departure – a bill prime minister Boris Johnson said would “scupper negotiations” – passed all stages in the Commons on Wednesday.

There were fears the Bill could have been stalled in the Lords, with Labour peer and leading lawyer Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws accusing Tory peer Lord True, who had submitted a raft of amendments to the motion, of time-wasting.

The Lords sat until 1.30am on Thursday when chief whip Lord Ashton of Hyde said all stages of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill will be completed by 5pm on Friday.

“We have also received a commitment from the chief whip in the House of Commons that Commons consideration of any Lords amendments will take place on Monday and it is the Government’s intention that the Bill be ready for Royal Assent,” he told peers.

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The late night debate capped a day of high drama in Westminster where newly appointed Prime Minister Boris Johnson was defeated over a backbench Bill on Brexit and a plan for a snap general election.

Johnson had called for a poll to be held on October 15 but Labour and other opposition MPs refused to back the bid – which needed a two-thirds majority in the Commons – while the risk of no-deal remained.

The Government failed to secure the support of two-thirds of MPs, with the Commons voting 298 to 55 – 136 short of the number needed.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (House of Commons/PA)
Johnson accused Jeremy Corbyn of being “the first Leader of the Opposition in the democratic history of our country to refuse the invitation to an election”.

The Labour leader said the Bill must be passed through the Lords and have received Royal Assent before he would entertain the thought of heading to the polls.

He said: “Let the Bill pass and have Royal Assent and then we can have a general election.”

Meanwhile, Johnson was facing continued criticism after Tory MPs – including two former chancellors and the grandson of Winston Churchill – had the party whip withdrawn because they rebelled by helping the effort to prevent no-deal.

The PM defended the move, telling ITV’s Peston: “These are friends of mine and believe me I take absolutely no joy in any of it but it was very sad and surprising that they should choose to undermine the UK’s ability to get a deal.”

On Thursday, Johnson has a busy schedule, including separate meetings with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and US Vice President Mike Pence in Downing Street.

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